Airush Kiteboarding is thrilled to have Sam Medysky join as International Team Rider and Canadian Sales Rep.
Just as flannel shirts and logging are traditionally synonymous with ‘Canada’s Great White North’, affable Sam is synonymous with the Canadian kite scene. The seven times national kiteboarding champion has been kiting in Canada since the early days inspired by his Dad as a kid. At 17 years old he got his first taste of Squamish and the heavenly flat water and consistent winds. It’s not surprising that he eventually left his Ontario home and it’s where he ended up.
Sam has been good enough to take time away from cutting logs for his off-grid mountain cabin. He’s given us the lowdown on why every kiter needs to experience the Canadian kiters dream:
The Set Up
The Vancouver area offers it all from cosmopolitan cities, Olympic grade snow parks, picturesque mountains and of course epic kiteboarding. It’s no wonder it’s a tourist hot spot attracting visitors from all over the world, as well as weekend trippers who take the easy drive up from Seattle, USA.
The area has a number of kite spots and these are spread around the mainland, Vancouver Island, and of course Sam’s beloved Squamish. Having kited all over the world, for Sam it’s the spot that has it all.
Squamish has recently been named the ‘Adventure Capital of Canada’ and just so happens to get all the wind too. It’s located near the end of the Howe Sound which is a network of deep tidal water channels North West of Vancouver. The clean wind funnels down the inlet from the ocean and creates some of the best flat water conditions in the world. What’s more is it’s all easily accessible from Vancouver International Airport just an hour’s drive away (and just 30 minutes from Whistler!).
Unlike the great lakes of Canada, in season (April – end of September) Squamish gets thermally driven winds which show up every day, pretty much without fail.
The main wind direction is South West and the wind is driven by a temperature gradient between Vancouver to the South, and Pemberton inland to the North. In the mornings the wind flows out of the sound and you’ll find that around 10:30 am the wind will stop. That’s your indicator to know that the inflow will start soon and you better get your gear ready. Once it turns, you’ll see why the locals refer to the air as being sucked through the ‘Sea to Sky’ corridor.
In the mornings Sam will be normally be riding a 13-14m kite, by noon he may switch down to 10-11m, and by afternoon even possibly a 9m to suit the 18-25 mph wind speeds.
Kiting at ‘The Spit’
If you’re a freestyle lover, beginner, or just a flat water enthusiast, then Squamish ‘Spit’ is where you want to be. The local Squamish Windsports Society (SWS) do an excellent job in making that possible.
The Spit has a man-made launching area that’s capable of hosting 200 kiters at once and gives direct access to the Howe Sound. To access the kiteable area you will need to pay a daily or yearly membership to SWS. In return for your fee you also get access to the spot (and plenty of parking), compressor, changing areas, bathrooms and rescue service. SWS do a great job of keeping the kiters safe (there’s still a nearby active shipping port and logging that goes on in the estuary!).
The way the spit is angled means it benefits from incredibly flat water. If you like to show off your jumping skills then you’ll be right in front of the crowd. The Spit makes for a perfect auditorium and plays host to major kite events and competitions like ‘Kite Clash’.
The area experiences huge tidal changes meaning the Spit can be almost bone dry or 16 feet deep. The lower tides are especially suited for beginners as they can still walk and develop skills in the shallow water. The river can flow fast at low tide also meaning you can pump your smallest kite, yet you will almost remain stationary in the current against the wind. Kiting in the strong river current is great for perfecting tricks over and again without the need to plane.
At high tide, the Spit can still accommodate all levels, and beginners will likely be taught from a boat. If you think that sounds complicated, don’t worry, as it’ll actually benefit you from getting straight back on the board quickly.
Staying in Squamish
Just a 5-minute drive from the Spit is the vibrant town of Squamish with everything you need to make it your base. There are multiple hotels and hostels and you can find a bed for as little as $25 Canadian dollars a night. If you want to party you can find it, or if you’d rather go out for a quiet meal then Squamish provides. Weekends can get crowded but it’s never too bad, and that’s where the fun starts!
There’s plenty that goes on aside from outdoor activities. Don’t forget that temperatures in season are warm and sunny (up to around 30 degrees centigrade in August): perfect for chilling.
Other Vancouver Spots
Spanish Banks Beach
This wide sandy public beach is only a 5-minute drive from downtown Vancouver on the mainland. In the summer you can ride daily in the 10-15 knots thermals (ideal for foiling). While the lifeguards are on duty in summer you’ll need to launch from ‘Dog Beach’ down the road in accordance with regulations. In the spring you can launch on the beach itself. You might score some strong steady Westerly fronts of 15-30 kts and will know about it when it hits!
The wind is mostly side-shore and the tides vary a lot. At low tide, you’ll discover 2-foot deep tide pools offering a butter flat playground for freestyle. Sometimes you might get breaking faces of small waves at the sandbar when the tide changes between low and high.
The coastal stretch between Spanish Banks and Jerico offer a great opportunity for short 2km downwinders. It’s perfect for learning as long as you stop before the sailing centre rocks!
Secret Locals Spot
This advanced level spot is like the kite mecca for Vancouverites. It might only work five times a year but it’s worth putting in all effort to score it. The location is Ambleside Beach next to the main point. When nature lines up one of the best sessions in your life you’ll get treated to head high glassy waves.
You’re most likely to score in spring when a big westerly comes through strong enough to fill the North of the bay. When this happens you’ll get a swell where the waves are protected from the wind by the pier, and perfect side-shore conditions to play with. At sunset the whole bay will become illuminated so make sure you’ve got someone waiting on the beach to photograph you!
Keep this ‘secret spot’ as a kite heaven by being respectful to the lifeguards, beachgoers and surfers.
If waves are your thing too then Vancouver Island is only a drive and ferry away (around 4-5 hours journey). Where the forests end you’ll find spectacular surf beaches. Tofino is renowned as one of the best wave spots in the world and the waves are biggest in winter. The wind is less reliable so don’t gamble on a session, but if you’re in the area keep an eye out for a South Easter storm to hit!
If you want to be even more extreme, then you’ve got a host of activities at your fingertips all within a 10-minute drive:
- Mountain Biking – The ‘Full Nelson Trail’ in Squamish was voted the world’s number one MTB track
- Base jumping
- Skiing and Snowboarding
- Rock Climbing
- White Water Rafting
Sam’s Top Tips for Enjoying Squamish
Where else in the world can you hike up a mountain on a summer morning, ski down it, eat lunch in the sun, then go kiting until sundown?!
Squamish is awesome but you can make the best of it if you:
- Read the wind like a local – Watch the temperatures in Pemberton and Vancouver. When you see a big difference (Vancouver should be colder) then it’s time to start pumping your kite
- Bring a decent 4:3 wetsuit as the water is pretty cold from all the glacial runoff. Some might even want booties
- Check the airline luggage allowances beforehand as some give free sports equipment travel
- Bring the full nine yards of clothes – you can get all seasons in a day here.
- If you can’t bring it, then rent it – everything is available
- For pure adventure rent a camper or R.V to get around. There’s plenty of awesome camping spots and for 2017 the national parks even offer free camping
If you’ve never thought of Canada as your summer kite vacation destination, then I bet reading this puts it to the top of your list. There’s plenty around to offer variety in kiting as well as keeping you entertained otherwise. Go pay Sam a visit and give him a water high-five from us.
Photos by Chris Rollett
Read more at: https://airush.com/2017/vancouver-kiteboarding-guide/